Tulum is a small village in the jungle located along the Riviera Maya of Mexico. It is mostly known for the famous Tulum Ruins, where you can find the remains of what was once a Mayan village. In the past years however it has become an increasingly popular holiday destination and a more quiet alternative to the large touristic towns of Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Before visiting this beautiful town however, you might want to know a few important things.
Tulum’s beaches are gorgeous: snow white sand and full of green palm trees with coconuts- however as soon as you come near the sea it is a completely different story. Huge piles of brown seaweed wash up the shores here everyday. Staff works hard to pick it up or bury the seaweed in the sand but it is a bit of a pointless task as it does not really make a difference: there is just too much seaweed that drifts ashore. If you are brave you can jump over the piles of seaweed on the beach and walk into the water- swimming is a bit impossible unless you don’t mind swimming in seaweed and getting the stuff all tangled in your hair. The saddest thing of it all: what is causing the seaweed is climate change- of course caused by humans. When speaking to the locals they explained to us that the water temperature is changing and also loads of chemicals in the ocean (sunscreen/dumping of chemicals/waste) are causing these large amounts of seaweed to grow. Not only does it spoil the beach fun- it is also damaging for marine life. As for now a solution has not really been found, so if you are going to Tulum for the beach you mind what to look elsewhere or jump in the pool to cool down.
The Tulum hotel zone has, as you might guess, beach and hotels on one side, and restaurants and shops on the other side of the road. There is only one road and although there are cabs, the main form of transportation is a bike! As a Dutch girl I was of course in my element, and it is also fun to see everyone cycling along the strip in a bikini or summery outfit on the way to get some food. It creates a very fun and relaxed vibe and it is of course eco friendly. There are shops that offer bicycles for rent but most hotels offer them for free if you are a guest. Since there is only one road you can’t get lost either, but there is plenty to see. Besides shops, restaurants, yoga studios, bars and beach clubs you can also find cenotes along the road as well as the Tulum Ruins. Don’t forget to stop for some fresh coconut water along the way- it is Mexico after all so it will be hot!
As you might have guessed from reading the previous paragraph, Tulum has a very chilled and relaxed vibe, so leave your stilettos and mini dresses at home. Since you will be cycling or walking to dinner comfortable clothes are the way to go here. Most beach clubs also don’t really have tables, instead there a loads of pillows and bean bags on the sand so again a mini dress is not the best option 😉 There is plenty of nice boutiques with maxi dresses, hats and nice sandals so you can always go on a nice shopping spree.
Tulum is a bit more laid back but also focuses a lot on a healthy, eco friendly lifestyle. There are a lot of yoga studios and most hotels offer free yoga classes up to two times a day. If you go out for breakfast and are expecting a fat unhealthy English breakfast you will be in for a shock. Most places have healthy ‘superfood’ items on the menu, like acai bowls, smoothie bowls, chiapudding, smoothies and even a lot of vegan dishes like pancakes, waffles. Lunch and dinner are similar: healthy salads and vegan options. There is meat and fish too of course, but don’t expect to be eating fat hamburgers here and there also aren’t any big chains like a MacDonalds/Pizza Hut (thank god!). A lot of restaurants also offer more vegetarian/vegan food that meat or fish dishes, which for me personally was really nice of course! In addition while visiting Tulum one thing that made me really happy is the fact that we had not seen one plastic bottle once. All water and other soft drinks were served in glass bottless and straws were paper of course. So if you are visiting Tulum be prepared to eat amazing healthy and fresh food. You will not be pigging out on the all inclusive buffet here!
5. Life in the jungle: Toilets & Insects
If you are in Tulum you are in the jungle, so naturally you cannot drink tap water and also the toilets aren’t what we are used to. The sewerage is not the best and neither is the water pressure for flushing, so you cannot throw any toilet paper in the toilet. If you have a choice, pick a hotel room with air conditioning and housekeeping twice a day so your room won’t be smelling of used toilet paper (if you know what i mean here 😉
Again: you are in the jungle so insect repellent spray is your best friend here. Most hotels and restaurants light up traditional Mayan fires that causes a specific type of smoke that originally was used to cleanse yourself before entering another space, but also keeps insects away. In addition most restaurants put a bottle of insect repellent on your table so if you ever forget it don’t be afraid to ask for it. Note: when you go swimming in the ocean or cenotes, make sure you wear a natural/biodegradable repellent as the chemicals in a normal one are extremely damaging for marine life. If you are wearing a normal repellent make sure to shower before swimming.